CLLR Paul Cuddihy wasted no time in getting down to business on Friday as he took over the role of Kilkenny County Council chairman at the council’s annual general meeting.
The Fine Gael member set out his stall and outlined his vision for the coming year, particularly in relation to how the council conducts its monthly business.
Cllr Cuddihy said it was his intention to streamline the meetings, “keeping speeches to a minimum” and giving all members equal access so that it is possible to “ask a straight question and get a straight answer”. To set the tone for his efficient approach, he had a copy of the council’s Standing Orders distributed to each member.
“I would like us to begin a process that we can make this council one that other councils aspire to follow and restore the morale of a staff that has been battered and bruised by cutbacks,” he said.
Policy-wise, he cited library services as a focal point. “We need better library facilities in this city and in this county,” Cllr Cuddihy said, praising the “wonderful, hard-working, imaginative staff”.
“It is over 100 years since Andrew Carnegie donated money to set up libraries throughout Ireland and around the world. It was a wonderful gesture and it is time for another,” he said in reference to the city library at John’s Quay.
Library services in the south of the county are also “a matter of genuine concern,” he said.
Among those congratulating him was Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF), who was once a geography student of the new chairman. “I spent several years under your watch,” Cllr McGuinness told him. “You were always a very fair teacher. You always gave every student an opportunity to make a contribution.”
Nominating Cllr Cuddihy for the post, Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh (FG) described her colleague’s extensive CV, starting from when he joined Fine Gael in University College Dublin in 1979.
In subsequent years, he was the first treasurer of the St Canice’s Community Action Committee, which set up the Fr McGrath Centre, and was a member of the fundraising committee to set up the Aislinn addiction treatment centre in Ballyragget. He was head of the Fringe Festival Committee for Kilkenny Arts Festival from 1989-1992 and served as chairman of Barnstorm Theatre Company for several years.
Since being elected to Kilkenny Corporation (now Borough Council) in 1994 and County Council in 1999, he has driven issues such as the flood-control scheme for the River Nore in the city, the Linear Park and a county-wide audit on schools traffic safety.
As city mayor in 2000-01 he fought to preserve Kilkenny’s city status, and later chaired the committee to mark the city’s 400th anniversary.
He started work as a substitute teacher at Kilkenny College in 1982 – in the very building in which the council now meets. “He was the last teacher on duty shutting the door when the last boarders left and he then opened the door to us councillors,” Cllr Cavanagh said.